“What kind of running shoes should I buy?” With various brands, hundreds of models, and thousands of styles, researching this question may be daunting for many. It is a challenge to discern whether a brand of shoes has vital, cutting edge technology or if their advertisements are full of jargon that will leave you impressed with their marketing department but discontent with their product. Even as a Physical Therapist, this question is complex to address because a suitable answer varies between runners and the available shoe. Below are some of the most important questions when shopping for running shoes.
What are the specific needs of my feet? All feet are not made equal in size, shape, and need for shoes. If you have any abnormalities in your feet (such as bunions, sesamoiditis, plantar fasciitis, etc.), you would benefit from an appointment with a podiatrist or Physical Therapist to address what modifications you need in running shoes. If you do not have foot problems, one of the largest factors to consider when shoe shopping is your foot posture in standing. Below are pictures of possible foot postures.
To address foot posture, a visit with a Physical Therapist or running coach is advisable, but if this is not possible, then the best way to assess yourself is by taking a picture of your ankles from behind. Then draw lines (similar to the picture) in order to assess if you have pronated, neutral, or supinated ankle posture.
If you fall into the pronation category (also referred to as overpronation), you have an arch that is fully or partially collapsed and thus you put pressure through the inside of your foot. With this posture, you will benefit from shoes with increased arch support to encourage more of a neutral foot posture.
If you have a neutral foot with a moderate arch, you may still benefit from mild arch support or a neutral shoe. This is the ideal posture because when running, the forces will be dispersed equally through the inside and outside of your foot.
If you fall into the supination category (also known as under pronation), you likely have a high arch and tend to put weight on the outside of your foot. You will benefit from a shoe that encourages your foot posture more towards a neutral position.
What brands are the best for running shoes?: This is not a straightforward question because every year new brands arise and various brands compete for the top rankings among running shoes. Well established running websites (such as runnersworld.com) can provide helpful guidelines of which brands have higher quality running shoes.
Do I need to buy the newest, most expensive shoe? Likely not. Every brand has its luxury model which you can buy if you would like, but it does not mean your running performance will drastically improve. However, buying the cheapest shoes in the store is not a wise method of purchasing running shoes. Often shoes in mid-range prices which are labeled as specific running shoes can provide you with the necessary support to prevent injuries and encourage good running stride. In general, I research the new models of mid-range shoes (usually $100-150) and then purchase the same type of shoe in last year’s model. Each year companies release new shoe models with only minor modifications from the previous year and then discount the previous model.
There are hundreds of models and brands, so how do I know which one suits me best? My best recommendation is to try shoes on and see which ones feel the best. Do some research (as recommended above) for which shoes are good quality and then go to a store to try them on. Since visiting a store may not be possible, look online at shoe websites that offer free return shipping. This way you can order several different types of shoes and try them on at home. Be careful though: if you walk outside in a pair of shoes, you likely cannot return it. If a shoe feels more comfortable, supportive, and natural to walk in, that is a good sign. You can even do some light jogging in your house to see how your foot feels when landing in the shoe. Some brands now offer minimalist shoes, which is an entirely different conversation. Please see our other blog about minimalist shoes and if these may be right for you.
I have my shoes, now what? Great, you are almost ready to get on the road. Before you start running in your new shoes, you need to give your body time to acclimate to the new shoes. Your feet are very adaptable but the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints need time to adjust, especially if the shoe is drastically different in its support than your previous shoes. I recommend people continue to run in their previous shoes and also start walking in the new shoes at home for about 30 minutes each day. After those two weeks, you can begin running in your new shoes several times a week. Start running at 25% or less of your normal distance and with each run add about 10% distance more distance. By the end of 2-3 weeks, you should be close to your original distance. (2)
1) Ducky2315, CC-BY-SA-3.0, VeryWellFit, Wendy Bumgardner, About, Inc., August 30, 2019, https://www.verywellfit.com/pronation-definition-3436329